Career Contessa CEO Lauren McGoodwin discusses career development and the women’s rights movement

For International Women’s Day this year, I had the great pleasure of chatting with founder and CEO of Career Contessa (CC), Lauren McGoodwin, to discuss women, their career development, and this pivotal moment in the women’s rights movement.

Lauren Sato (LS): Lauren, I have been so excited to come across your work, and find such great alignment with how we’re thinking about career development here at RealSelf! “You Own You” is our mantra for both our consumers and employees, and I see this ethos throughout Career Contessa.

What advice do you give to women who are just learning to truly own their career/growth?

Lauren McGoodwin (LG): I learned the hard way what it means to not be in the driver’s seat of my career. I would encourage all women to learn how to advocate on your own behalf and it can be as easy as starting with something small — like the opportunity to sit in on a meeting —and grow into something larger like asking for a new role, a raise, and more. No one goes out and runs a marathon on day one — owning your career can be done in steps as well!

LS: That’s such great advice. I meet so many women who are overwhelmed by tackling this issue, and starting small is actually very empowering. So, switching gears a little bit, it looks like you have built a team of badass women over there at CC.

What guidance do you have for women managers on finding and developing great female talent?

LG: Look for women that truly believe that amazing things happen when women support each other, and work together! It’s also great for managers to really hone the art of feedback and how to lead by inspiring the women around them.

LS: Completely agree.

On the flip-side, have you ever been mean-girled? How did you handle it? Do you have advice for women dealing with that kind of thing at work?

LG: Definitely. My tips include trying your best to look at the situation as objectively as possible. I know it’s hard not to take it personally, but think about why this person might be lashing out. Consider whether this is a single occurrence or recurring issue. Killing the mean girl with kindness can help you feel better about not sinking to her level and, next, be very selective in what you share with her. Lastly, see if your manager will bring in an expert to distribute personality assessments and exercises. I had this happen at work once, and by the time it was over my enemy and I were friends since we understood why the other person reacted or worked a certain way.

LS: Oh my gosh, I have been through the exact same situation. And, I don’t think it’s that uncommon. What is encouraging is that we’re starting to see a cultural shift highlighting the importance of women having each other’s backs.

What do you think is needed to move the #metoo #timesup conversation forward in terms of creating safe and empowering workplaces for women?

LG: Having non-biased resources and policies in place where women can report abuse in a safe and supportive way is very important. A lot of women never told anyone because the only option was HR—a team that has been historically biased on the side of the company. Continuous training and clear guidelines on sexual harassment, gender equality, fairness, and safety will also create better workplaces for all people. This must be something that companies invest in and don’t just check a box.

LS: Right! I can’t tell you how challenging it’s been to fight the bias HR stigma, and demonstrate that whenever an issue is raised it is addressed effectively and respectfully—never shamed, dismissed, or swept under the rug. We need to build new muscle memory around this as employers, but it starts with ensuring all of those foundational things you mentioned are in place. What you’re doing to support companies in actively and intentionally developing women and creating environments that women can thrive in is the perfect next step in this work. I’m so excited that you’re leading the way on this and look forward to continuing the conversation with you.


Career Contessa is the only career site built exclusively for women.

We help women cultivate successful careers through expert advice, interviews, and videos; one-on-one mentoring; online skills-based courses and resources; and a curated job board that speaks to our audience. Everything we do comes straight from the best kind of experts—real women who’ve been there and successfully done that.

By helping women and the companies that support them, we’re here to build a better workforce for the future.


RealSelf is the world’s largest online marketplace for people to learn and share experiences about elective cosmetic procedures and connect with the right providers. Offering millions of photos and medical expert answers, 10 million people visit RealSelf each month to find out which treatments and providers live up to their promise of being “Worth It.” From simple skincare to highly considered cosmetic surgery, RealSelf makes it easy to discover what’s possible and find the right provider.

Women make up the majority of our consumers as well as 60% of our employee population. A RealSelf mantra that we hold dear is: “You Own You” – a call to be at the helm of both your beauty/wellness decision-making and your career development. We put our money where our mouth is on this, offering a wide range of tools and training that support the whole person: from self-defense classes, to financial wellness and transparent career pathing. Women come to RealSelf as consumers and employees to take charge of their lives.

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A look back at a year of ‘Not today, motherf@#!er’ with survivor Kelly Herron

Last year, RealSelf employee Kelly Herron made headlines for bravely fighting off an attacker while she was on a run in her Seattle neighborhood. The attack happened just weeks after RealSelf hosted an in-office self defense class, and Kelly fought back using the training she learned in that class.

Following the attack, she coined the phrase “Not today, motherf@#!er!”, which has been adopted as a rallying cry against violence. In 2017, RealSelf hosted a free self-defense class by Fighting Chance Seattle to teach the same skills Kelly had learned a few weeks prior.

Now, more than a year after the attack, RealSelf again partnered with Fighting Chance Seattle to offer another course. More than 70 people attended.

Participants learned how to identify red flags, protect themselves and escape potentially threatening situations. Whether it’s striking soft places with hard bones, or using their voices to be loud and fight hard. The class is designed to empower participants with the skills they need to respond in threatening situations.

We talked with Kelly about what her past year has been like.

You’ve had a busy and intense year. What have been the high points?

While the last year of my life has been the most challenging, it has also been the most rewarding.  

I had the opportunity to speak on the topic of resilience at a running retreat and share my story with hundreds of women. The speaker lineup included Olympian Alysia Montaño, journalist Erica Hill and running influencer Kelly Roberts.  

Preparing for the event allowed me to reflect on my life that led up to the day of the attack and made me realize that resilience is cultivated over a lifetime, not something that is born overnight. Every setback in my life prepared me for overcoming the trauma inflicted by the assault.

Tell us about running your first marathon.

Training for the Chicago marathon with my mom was a life-changing experience. We logged miles in the mountains of Oregon, city of Seattle and ranchlands in Montana. She was so supportive and encouraging and let me feel all my feelings, even when most of them were expletives.

When I met my running inspiration, Olympian Carrie Tollefson, at the Chicago Marathon, it was surreal. After being on her podcast last March, she emailed me every week to help me with my training schedule. Her belief in me made me believe in myself.

The marathon itself was an absolute blast — at least for the first 15 miles. It’s like running through a huge party with every nationality represented, music and a crowd that cheers nonstop.  

I was surprised to have people recognize me on the course and tell me how much my story inspired them. It kept me going! I will always have the memory of being with my mom through the whole thing, it was really a metaphor for the whole experience. No matter how hopeless it seems, you just keep going.

My motivation to continue training for the marathon was initially because I refused to let my attacker take anything from me, including the pursuit of becoming a marathoner. A switch flipped when I crossed the finish line. I quit looking back at what happened to me and started looking forward at how I could help others with my experience and inspire then to discover their own badassery.

You really shared your story, especially online.

The assault was a few minutes of my life, but I am more than a catchy headline.  Sharing my story with an audience allows me to shed some light on the experiences that led me up to that day, and the work that it took to recover.

To me, the difference between being a victim and a survivor is not about winning or losing, but about how we respond when our world is pulled out from underneath us.  

The best part about sharing my story is seeing people realize that they can write the ending to their own stories, and we don’t have to be defined by our past or suffer alone. Kind of like running a marathon.

You advocate and do events to teach people how to defend themselves. What is best part of doing this?

Getting to talk to people afterward. They often tell me that they don’t think they could have survived.

I believe that anyone could have survived what I went through if they have baseline knowledge of self-defense, and they permit themselves to unleash the most savage part of themselves when they need to. Survival is an instinct and adrenaline is powerful, but it is also important to know how to effectively channel that power or else you are just flailing.

What have you learned most from this year?

I have learned that the key to survival is a super support network, and for me that came in many forms. My friends from work came to my home to clean up and make me food, and help me go through my thousands of online messages. My running coach got me back out to train, and, of course, my mom was the biggest supporter of all. Every parent fears the phone call from the hospital that their child was hurt. She has handled all of this and my recovery with a grace and strength that I admire greatly.

I have learned the importance of self-care, and this was not a lesson quickly learned! Self-care can come in many forms, like going to therapy, getting fresh air and setting boundaries. There is so much noise in our lives that we can’t always hear our own needs. I tell people all the time now to give themselves a break. We put so much pressure on ourselves to keep going and be strong and sometimes you just need to eat candy and have a good ugly cry.  

Anything else?

When I was marathon-training early last year, I had been meaning to take a self-defense class, but I never prioritized it.  When it was offered at RealSelf during the day, I had no excuse not to. This one small decision would change the course of my life.

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Meet the 2018 RealSelf Fellowship Recipients

We’re humbled and excited to announce nine recipients of the 2018 RealSelf Fellowship.

Each Fellow receives a $7,500 grant toward a nonprofit-sponsored humanitarian medical trip. In addition to bringing care to those who need it most, many of the 2018 Fellowship recipients will provide training to local physicians. By building knowledge with local medical professionals they continue to impact the communities they visit for years to come.

“These individuals have donated their time to help close the gap on global access to reconstructive surgery, and we feel fortunate to be able to support their efforts,” said RealSelf Founder and CEO, Tom Seery. “Looking forward, we aim to deepen and expand the impact of our global giving efforts and further the RealSelf mission to bring confidence to people worldwide.”

The 2018 RealSelf Fellows:

  • David M. Alessi, Beverly Hills facial plastic surgeon working with Face Forward in March 2018.
  • Frank P. Fechner, Worcester facial plastic surgeon traveling to Vietnam with Face-to-Face in November 2018.
  • Mark Hanikeri, a plastic surgeon from Perth, Australia traveling to the Philippines with Operation Rainbow in June 2018.
  • Monica Kieu, Marina del Rey physician traveling to Ho Chi Minh City with the Project Vietnam Foundation in March 2018.
  • Wayne F. Larrabee Jr., Seattle facial plastic surgeon traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with Seattle Anesthesia Outreach in March 2018.
  • Derek Lou, Houston plastic surgeon traveling to Guerrero, Mexico with the Crystal Foundation in May 2018.
  • James M. Pearson, Los Angeles facial plastic surgeon traveling to Vietnam with HUGS in March 2018.
  • Ifeolumipo O. Sofola, Houston facial plastic surgeon traveling to Kigali, Rwanda with Face the Future in February 2018.
  • Laura A. Sudarsky, Fort Lauderdale plastic surgeon traveling to Guatemala with Healing the Children in November 2018. 

Special Mention

In addition to the nine fellowships, RealSelf also selected eleven applications to receive a Special Mention. Tom & RealSelf provided each of these Special Mentions with $1,000 for their non-profit partner.

What’s the RealSelf Fellowship?

Photo courtesy: Dr. Patrick Byrne, a 2017 fellow

The RealSelf Fellowship awards financial grants to medical professionals who give back by delivering care and training to people around the world who would not otherwise have access.

More than a dozen RealSelf fellows have already taken humanitarian medical trips around the world.

To learn more about the RealSelf fellowship and other global giving efforts by RealSelf, visit

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RealSelf named a ‘Best Company for Women’ by Comparably

RealSelf has been recognized as a top rated company for women in a new survey by Comparably, a culture and career monitoring website.

The list of top-ranked workplaces is based on reviews by female employees and includes eight Puget Sound-based companies. RealSelf is one of only three local companies honored in the small and mid-size category.

The results are based on responses to questions about workplace topics including compensation, mentorship, and investment in career growth.

“We are a company for women, by women, so this recognition means the world to us,” said VP of People Lauren Sato. “Our hope is that our approach to supporting women holisticallywith things like self-defense classes and mindfulness workshopsmight also influence other companies to think more broadly about how to create empowering workplaces for women.”

Fostering a strong company culture has always been a top priority for RealSelf CEO Tom Seery, who was also honored by Comparably. He made Comparably’s list of the Top Ranked CEOs in the United States, which is also based on anonymous ratings provided by employees. Tom is among 50 chief executives honored in the small and mid-size companies category.

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.

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RealSelf Announces Partnership to Support Training and Mentoring of Female Surgeons in Africa

RealSelf, the most trusted online destination to get informed about elective cosmetic treatments and find the right provider, announced a partnership with Mission: Restore to support the next generation of female surgeons in Africa. The first initiative is the Women in Surgery campaign, which provides training to fifteen surgeons who seek to advance their skills in reconstructive surgery. RealSelf is matching up to $15,000 in new donations to the campaign through October 31.

Through the matching grant from RealSelf, funds will support East African female surgeons’ access to highly focused hands-on surgical training, mentorship and grant opportunities, and access to regional conferences so they can further their impact in the surgical field.

“RealSelf has a commitment to supporting doctors who deliver reconstructive care in underserved communities around the world,” said RealSelf Founder and CEO Tom Seery. “We are proud to support a campaign that provides training and mentorship to female surgeons and highlights the powerful work they’re doing to bring reconstructive care, and confidence, to patients who need it most.”

Both Mission: Restore and RealSelf recognize that closing the gender gap in surgery is not only about equality for women, but is one of the most impactful and effective ways to meet the global surgical need. This partnership builds on other philanthropic efforts by RealSelf, including the RealSelf Fellowship Program, which awards funding to medical professionals who donate their time to deliver medical care and training to vulnerable populations around the world.

“We work with amazing female surgeons in East Africa every day, and we see the impact they have on their communities. With partners like RealSelf we can continue to support these women and recruit the next generation of surgeons,” said Executive Director of Mission: Restore Karina Nagin.

To learn more or donate to the Women in Surgery campaign, please visit:

About RealSelf

RealSelf is the largest online marketplace for people to learn and share experiences about elective cosmetic procedures and connect with the right providers. Offering millions of photos and medical expert answers, 10 million people visit RealSelf each month to find out which treatments and providers live up to their promise of being “Worth It.” From simple skincare to highly considered cosmetic surgery, RealSelf makes it easy to discover what’s possible and find the right provider.

About Mission: Restore

Mission: Restore is a global health non-profit increasing the capacity of surgeons in developing countries through training and mentorship. We specialize in reconstructive surgery and create a sustainable infrastructure in which local surgeons have the knowledge, skills and support they need to treat debilitating injuries in their own communities.

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RealSelf Fellow Teaches Through Surgery in Vietnam

When Dr. Joseph Gruss set out on a recent humanitarian medical trip to Vietnam, he did so not expecting to spend much, if any, time in the operating room. The trip was designed to be a teaching trip, where he could connect with local surgeons and give lectures. The operating room turned out to be the perfect classroom.

“The problem is when you get to these countries, a lot of the local people don’t speak good English, so it’s really hard to teach all the time without translators,” Dr. Gruss said in an interview with RealSelf. “I found the best way to teach was in the operating room.”

And teach he did. A lot.

“Even though I was not supposed to do many surgeries … I eventually did five cases a day for five days,” Dr. Gruss said. “To do five major cases in a day is absolutely impossible in the U.S.”

Dr. Gruss explains a procedure in the operating room. Photo via ReSurge.

Most of the patients were children in need of facial reconstruction. The majority of the surgeries were to repair cleft lips or cleft palates. Dr. Gruss said it would take at least a month in the United States to perform as many surgeries as he did in five days. He credited the efficiency of the process in Vietnam. From the nurses and anesthesiologists who got patients set up quickly, to the lack of road blocks in the process that doctors often face in the United States.

“Myself and my resident were actually blown away by how efficient the operating rooms run there,” Dr. Gruss said.

Dr. Gruss noted that while the process is much quicker than it is in the United States, it isn’t because of a lack of safety. All of the appropriate safety measures are taken with each patient. Dr. Gruss said the level of care in Vietnam was fairly sophisticated compared to many countries. There just isn’t enough of it. He visited one of the few major hospitals. Many patients live long distances away and struggle to travel for the care they need.

Dr. Gruss made this trip with a group from ReSurge, who are working to expand and raise the level of care in countries like Vietnam. He did so with a sponsorship from RealSelf as one of the members of the initial class for the RealSelf Fellowship. RealSelf Fellows are awarded $7,500 to help fund nonprofit-sponsored humanitarian trips with the potential to further the RealSelf mission to bring confidence to people worldwide.

He is planning a return trip to Vietnam, and hoping to be able to see some of the patients he operated on.

Until then, he’s continuing to do what he initially set out to do; teach. He has maintained relationships with some of the doctors he met in Vietnam, and frequently answers their questions via email.

Learn more about the RealSelf Fellowship and how to apply here.

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RealSelf’s Volunteering Day at the Treehouse Warehouse

RealSelf employees recently put their sorting, folding, packing, and tagging skills to the test during an afternoon volunteering in the Treehouse warehouse.

Treehouse’s mission is to bring equity for youth in foster care. That includes providing the kids with the academic support they need to graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers. The impact of the effort has been significant. Washington youth in foster care who aren’t in the Treehouse program have a 5-year high school graduation rate of 49%. The rate for those in the program jumps to 89% — above the Washington state average rate of 82%.

A huge part of the effort is an annual back-to-school drive that helps supply youth in the program with the supplies they need to feel confident in school.

That is where RealSelf came in.

In July, RealSelf employees participated in a back-to-school drive for Treehouse, donating clothing and school supplies.

We wanted to make an even bigger impact, so we partnered with Treehouse on a volunteer day in the warehouse. Treehouse receives thousands of donations ranging from new school supplies to used clothing, and everything in between. Each item has to be checked for quality, sorted, and processed before it hits the floor of the Treehouse store where the kids shop. Nearly a dozen RealSelf employees spent an afternoon doing just that.

“Working with Treehouse
was a great 
team experience,
and I can’t wait to go back!”

— Michael Peberdy

From separating pencils and pens to processing bags and bags of clothing, we did a little bit of everything. The majority of the day was spent in the Treehouse warehouse, but we also spent some time stocking the the store floor while several kids were busy shopping.

Treehouse received so many school supply donations we were running out of bins to store them all in. We were also put on duty of sorting more than 100 donated backpacks and dozens and dozens of new clothing items.

Everything donated to Treehouse gets put to use. If it’s not up to the standard of what the kids would receive, then it is donated to Goodwill in exchange for vouchers Treehouse uses to purchase additional inventory. Processing all of the items is a major effort, and volunteer teams are a big help.

This wasn’t the first time RealSelf partnered with Treehouse and that partnership will continue in the future with more clothing drives and volunteer opportunities.

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.
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RealSelf Gives Back with a Month of Volunteering

At RealSelf, we want all of our employees enjoy great work-life balance. We also understand it’s impossible to not bring aspects of life into work and aspects of work home. That’s why we try to support the RealSelf team whether they are in or out of the office.

That’s where our COR Learning program comes in.

There is a different COR Learning every month, ranging from self defense seminars and nutrition training, to improv classes. Each is designed to offer employees support they can use in all parts of their life.

The COR Learnings are also another chance for RealSelf to give back. Giving back is at the heart of RealSelf and something we believe in strongly. The RealSelf Local Giving team organizes volunteer projects throughout the year, but it only seemed right to designate an entire month to giving back. That’s exactly what we did in July with our Volunteering COR Learning. We partnered with local organizations to help make an impact in our community.

Part of the collection RealSelf delivered to Treehouse.

That included holding a drive for Treehouse, an organization that supplies youth in foster care with the items and support they need to succeed. Treehouse serves more than 7,000 foster care youth annually, helping them with clothing and supplies for school as well as academic and financial support. The result is overwhelming with an 89% five-year graduation rate for those in the Treehouse program, compared to 49% for foster youth not in the program.

RealSelf has worked with Treehouse before and the drive this year was another success. Employees brought in bags and bags of new clothing and school supplies, adding up to a large delivery that will help more than 50 kids get ready to go back to school.

For the second time this year, several employees visited Food Lifeline to help sort and repack food that would otherwise go to waste. Food Lifeline rescues millions of pounds of food every year and redirects it to food banks, shelters and meal programs.

July may have been the volunteering COR Learning month, but RealSelf’s efforts to give back go well beyond a couple events one month of the year. The RealSelf Local Giving team is always looking for ways to make an impact in our community. Making a year-round effort was also part of the COR Learning as a representative from Seattle Works stopped by the office to help us find more ways to volunteer.

The COR Learning program has a lot more in store in 2017 with mental health and financial wellness events planned in the coming months.

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.
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RealSelf Makes Two More ‘Best Workplace’ Lists

It’s time to celebrate again!

RealSelf continues to collect accolades as a stellar place to work, this time by both Inc. magazine and Seattle Business magazine.

We are the No. 15 midsize company (60 to 149 employees) on Seattle Business magazine’s list of the 100 best places to work in Washington in 2017. This marks the third consecutive year we made the list.

The ranking is based on 10 categories, including benefits, communication, corporate culture, hiring/retention, executive leadership, performance standards, responsibility/decision making, rewards/recognition, training/education, and workplace environment.

RealSelf staffers celebrate the Seattle Business honor

We were also named an honoree in Inc. magazine’s national list of “Best Workplaces 2017.” The list recognized the 233 best companies from around the country. RealSelf was one of only 10 companies recognized from Washington state. The magazine surveyed more than 169,000 employees to formulate the list.

Creating and maintaining a strong company culture has been a priority at RealSelf. CEO Tom Seery said the company has worked to establish a culture where employees can be themselves, and work in an environment that makes them want to come back every day.

Earlier this year, RealSelf ranked No. 29 for top company culture by Entrepreneur magazine and claimed the No. 17 spot out of 50 on Glassdoor’s 2017 Employees’ Choice Best Place to Work list

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.
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RealSelf Joins the 2017 Seattle Pride Parade

The 43rd annual Seattle Pride Parade will be Sunday, June 25, and for the first time, RealSelf will be a sponsoring participant. More than 30 RealSelfers, family members, and friends will march to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

Planning for the event was a team effort with more than 40 employees collaborating on the process. While this will be the first time RealSelf participates as a company, there were plenty of Seattle Pride veterans to help with preparations.

The result is RealPride.

RealPride means supporting our community and people’s ability to be proud of themselves as individuals. It means love for all. It means celebrating joy and happiness. And it means paving the way for the next generation to be out and proud.

Courtesy: Seattle Pride

RealSelf will join more than 200 other organizations as sponsoring participants. The RealSelf team will be decked out in ’90s themed wardrobes, and passing out goodies for the crowd.

Participating in the event is another opportunity for the RealSelf Local Giving team to support the local community. Recently the Local Giving team prepared groceries with the Food Lifeline Hunger Solution Center and helped with a spring cleanup of Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood

The Seattle Pride Parade begins at 11 a.m. PT. The parade will run along 4th Avenue in Downtown Seattle, beginning at Union Street and running north to Denny Way, ending near the Seattle Center and Space Needle.

Want to work for one of Seattle’s best companies? We’re hiring! Apply to join our team today.
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